TOT – The Time Jim Thorpe Was a Brave

TOT – The Time Jim Thorpe Was a Brave

Transaction of Today – May 21, 1919…The New York Giants trade Jim Thorpe to the Boston Braves for a player to be named later. The Boston Braves sent Pat Ragan (May 30, 1919) to the New York Giants to complete the trade.

He was the greatest American athlete of his time. A Gold Medalist, professional football player, and even a basketball player, Jim Thorpe also played a half-dozen years of professional baseball. His natural gifts on the diamond were limited by one particular enemy that has killed the careers of a number of many lesser men – the curveball.

His grandfather was Black Hawk, a band leader and warrior of the Sauk American Indian tribe who fought against America during the War of 1812 and raided American settlements in their former land of Illinois. Jim Thorpe’s father, Hiram, had at least 20 children from five different Native women. That’s what I call a big family. Thorpe’s Indian name was Wa-tho-huck, which loosely translates to “Path Lit by Lightening.” He’d live up to that moniker.

In 1904, Thorpe was sent to the Carlisle Indian School in Pennslyvania to get some disciplinary problems in check. The school had some good intentions. It taught Natives work skills that would make them more appealing to hire. However, while Carlisle was referred to as a “college,” its education level lagged significantly behind. Carlisle did have a sports program, however, and in 1907, Glenn “Pop” Warner pushed Thorpe to join the football squad. Over the next few years, though he would leave Carlisle at times to make money playing baseball and working on a farm, Thorpe would return to do special things on the gridiron. In 1911 and 1912, he was an All-American.

Also in 1912, Thorpe was selected to represent America in two new events at the Olympics – the pentathlon and decathlon. He won both and was approached by King Gustav V of Sweden, who told Thorpe, “You, sir, are the greatest athlete in the world.” Thorpe simply responded, “Thanks, King.” This may not be a completely true story, but it should be.

After the Olympics, Thorpe was a national hero and had a ticker-tape parade down Broadway. However, his gold medals wouldn’t be without controversy. The next year, it was reported that Thorpe had played professional minor league ball in the Eastern Carolina League. Truth be told, many college players of the time did the same thing as it was a good way to make money in the summer. But they did something Thorpe didn’t do – play under an alias to protect their amateur status.

The Amateur Athletic Union retroactively took away Thorpe’s amateur rank – in no small part due to its secretary, James E. Sullivan. To say Sullivan didn’t like Indigenous People is an understatement. Back in 1904, Sullivan staged sporting events of white athletes against Natives in what he called the “Special Olympics.” It was a complete farce, though, as Sullivan’s focus was to prove that Natives were not on the same level as their superior white athletes. To prove this, Sullivan used trained white athletes against Natives who neither understood the rules or even the English descriptions of the sport. The event was also called the “Savages” Olympics.

Not only was his amateur status taken away, but Thorpe also was stripped of his gold medals – though the second-place finishers refused to take them. The medals would later be stolen from museums and have never been recovered. In 1981, the International Olympic Committee reinstated Thorpe and gave two of his children commemorative medals.

Losing his amateur status did lead to Thorpe becoming one of the biggest free agents in sports history. In 1915, he joined the Canton Bulldogs of the APFA – a precursor to the NFL. He played professional football until 1928. He also joined a traveling basketball team of “World Famous Indians,” who barnstormed several states in 1927-28.

But in baseball, he perhaps made his most money. In an era of the reserve clause that limited the potential earnings a ballplayer could make, Thorpe signed for $6,000 a year (about $150K in today’s dollars). It was the most money to be given to a rookie ballplayer at the time. However, signing Thorpe was done as much for the publicity as anything. John McGraw admitted that he never saw Thorpe play and didn’t even know if he was right-or-left-handed.

Thorpe would play sporadically over the next three years, hitting just .195. He was very raw and it showed as he struck out 29 times in 118 AB. While striking out a quarter of your at-bats in today’s game is pretty normal, it just didn’t happen in the 1910’s. He had more luck in the minors, hitting .303 with 22 steals in the Eastern League in 1915. But he couldn’t find success in the bigs.

In 1917, with his former star pitcher Christy Mathewson managing the Reds, McGraw loaned Thorpe to Cincinnati. He’d play more regularly with the Reds, hitting .247/.267/.367 with four homers and 11 steals. He had perhaps the biggest highlight of his baseball career with the Reds. On May 2, Thorpe stepped in with a runner on third base and two outs. The Cubs’ Hippo Vaughn had just given up the first hit of the ballgame after nine no-hit innings from both Vaughn and Reds starter Fred Toney. Thorpe hit a slow grounder toward third that Vaughn fielded and tried to throw to home to get the runner. The catcher, Art Wilson, wasn’t ready and never caught the ball. Toney finished the game with another hitless frame in the bottom of the tenth as the Reds won 1-0.

Thorpe returned to the Giants in 1918 but continued to struggle and McGraw could find only a few at-bats for his high-priced outfielder. After starting the 1919 season with New York and complaining about his playing time, the Giants traded Thorpe to the Boston Braves on this day nearly a century ago. The Giants later got Pat Ragan out of the deal. The righty was a 35-year-old pitcher who had been pretty good for most of the decade, but by 1919, looked like a shell of his former self. He’d pitch just 22.2 innings with the Giants before they waived him and he joined the 1919 White Sox for the final few days of the season. He did not play in the 1919 World Series.

In Boston, Thorpe played pretty regularly over the rest of the season. He also had his best success, hitting .327/.360/.429 as a Brave with seven doubles, three triples, and a homer. He also swiped seven bases. Sure, the .400 BABIP helped. For whatever reason, however, Thorpe wasn’t brought back. He’d play a couple more years of minor league ball, but the experience in Boston was his final one in the major leagues.

Thorpe summed up his career in baseball with one sentence – “I can’t seem to hit curves.” To be fair, they ain’t that easy to hit.

More TOTs
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TOT – Braves Deal for Salary Relief – but in 1978

More Boston-Era TOTs
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TOT – Beaneaters Add A Premier Player of the 90’s
TOT – Boston Brings Back Fred Tenney


Tommy…..despite wasting a number of pitches (Folty has A GREAT ARM! The number of 3-0, 3-1, 2-0, 1-0 pitching counts…in addition to the number of 0-2, 1-2 pitching counts that result in 3-2 MADDENING!). Sure, he pitched 6 innings tonight (sound familiar, lol) of 1 run ball…yet needed over 100 pitches to get there.

I’m not going to dogg Shane Carle for the 2 run homer he gave up. Dude’s been lights out for almost the whole season so far. He made ONE mistake tonight (he’s human, after all). He came back and got the other 3 outs (a bunt single preceded the homer). Given that our offense didnt show up tonight….the homer he gave up really didnt matter.

Hopefully tomorrow, the good McCarthy will show up (along with our offense).

Tommy, I listened to MLB Radio for about 2 hours today. A number of Braves fans called in with their INSANE ‘let’s start gutting the farm system for Chris Archer, Madison Bumgarner, Clayton Kershaw (if The Dodgers were to fall out of the race)…as well as middle relievers…AND of course, The Moustakas and Donaldson Mania Trades (virtually every TC Clownish Trade Proposal involves either only giving up Wisler and Braxton Davidson for Moustakas and Kelvin Herrera..OR…giving up Max Fried, Bryce Wilson and Tooki Tousiant for Moustakas).

It is MADDENING…how Braves Nation has turned a 360 when it comes to The Expectations regarding 2018 (and the future). It’s like most Braves fans feel that 2018 is like our ‘only’ window to win a World Series (in other words, they somehow feel that WE are The Nationals with a number of pending Free Agents…INSTEAD of actually being THE ATLANTA BRAVES…who are LOADED with YOUNG, CHEAP, HIGH UPSIDE TALENT that is under Braves control FOR AT LEAST 5-6 years!).

The Yankees in 2017 turned out to be contenders A YEAR EARLY! Yet, did they BLOW THROUGH their prospect capital at The 2017 July Trade Deadline? NOPE! They added a 3rd baseman (Todd Frazier), 2 top flight late inning relievers (Tommy Kahnle and David Robertson) AND a #2/#3 rotation starter in Sonny Gray….for prospects outside their Top 10! They kept the BEST prospects (both pitching and position players). Also, The Yankees DID NOT have to give up ANY of their top prospects this offseason..when they traded for Giancarlo Stanton to pair with Aaron Judge!

Whether it is the talk show hosts OR reporters supposedly ‘covering’ The Braves (by the way, whatever happened to the ‘so called’ reports the whole offseason..that stated that The Braves were ‘all in’ on going after Moustakas?)…I feel that it is IRRESPONSIBLE to just MAKE UP STUFF…just to rile up STUPID so-called fans into ‘pressuring’ GMs/Ownership to ‘make moves’…just so the pundits can have something to ‘talk about’.

This Braves team has flaws…however it is also HELLA YOUNG….and IF our GM, AA, stays the projected to get EVEN YOUNGER (and BETTER) in the next couple of years! Instead of just ‘trading away prospects’ to give ADHD fans a ‘quick fix’ (which in the long run will result in ANOTHER rebuilding job)…why not take pleasure in seeing A WINNER being built/being developed over the course of the next couple of years? A WINNER that has the possibility of mirroring a 10-15 year run where The Braves make The Playoffs every year (giving our guys a shot to win ‘the tournament’ EVERY SINGLE YEAR)?

Even if The Braves were to get Moustakas without giving up any of our better prospects….a right handed power hitter is what our offense really needs! Also, our Starting Pitching is nowhere near Playoff Caliber…. NOR do we have a LOCKDOWN closer.

Sure, I get frustrated with seeing Folty and Newcomb ‘only’ pitch 6 innings as start. HOWEVER, BOTH have made progress in 2018. Whereas both would struggle in past years…..mixing in an inning or two of ‘shutout, ace-like glimpses’..followed by a meltdown inning with lots of walks (if they managed to make it through 5 innings). However, so far in 2018..BOTH have progressed even more so! I feel that NOT ONLY will both possibly get stronger/more productive as the season wears on (possibly mixing in a few 7-8 inning STRONG appearances)…but also 2019 and beyond could show that BOTH of them have it in them to start COMPLETING their starts!

However, for that to happen..BOTH need time and patience to ‘work on their craft’. The same can be said for Soroka, Gohara and Allard. Teheran and McCarthy (and I’ll quote Herm Edwards here)…are basically ‘who we thought they are’ (grinders who need to have ‘everything go perfect for them’..or they will struggle to get hitters out without giving up 4-5 runs a start). That’s why BOTH need to eventually be traded…to open up spots for Gohara and Allard.

The one good thing about The Braves ‘winning ways’ to start The 2018 that it gives prospective Free Agents ‘a glimpse’ of HOW BRIGHT The Braves future is! While money will rule when it comes to where most Free Agents sign….’winning’ (or the chance to win) a World Series could be ‘the tie-breaker’, all things being ‘equal’, lol!

Good news, The Braves are still in 1st place….by 1/2 a game! We need to win tomorrow…to stay in 1st!

Paul, is labeling fans “STUPID so-called fans,” and “ADHD fans” for wanting to see the team make a move or two, when you don’t, really the start of a sound argument?

Ultimately, you’re not wrong that a RH power bat is the more ideal fit to add to the order. However, a LH power bat that upgrades 3B is better than none at all. And the Braves are in a somewhat fortunate position of having a need at a position where the market will be flooded, so the cost shouldn’t be extreme. And in spite of your protests, the Braves will have to move some of these players soon for 40 man reasons- it’s just a fact. And while the Braves aren’t getting a thing of value for Wisler, giving up a Fried or Tooki alone for a piece or two is hardly going to be the domino that starts the next rebuild. So there’d be little harm in stepping out a little bit, and rewarding a team that’s played well with some reinforcements for a playoff push. The sky won’t fall. Lol.

King….I’m not ‘opposed’ to seeing The Braves eventually making trades when it comes to improving the roster. HOWEVER, until we’ve built our rotation…it would be FOOLISH to start trading ANY of our young high upside pitching prospects.

Right now, even Wisler has value to The Braves (they can start him, occasionally, when a Soroka has to go on The DL for 10 days) right now.

I ‘feel’ that for by the end of 2018, our Rotation will be Folty, Newcomb, Soroka, Gohara and Allard (which would mean that BOTH McCarthy and Teheran get traded by The July Trade Deadline). HOWEVER, injuries/one or more of them ‘suddenly losing it’/attrition can happen!

Folty could suffer a mental breakdown after an umpire ‘screws him’ on a call…Newcomb could regress when it comes to ‘going after hitters’ (turn into Steve Blass when it comes to the walks)….Soroka’s shoulder could blow up,….Gohara’s weight increasing could make his knees blow out….and Allard’s apparent velocity loss could affect his ability to get MLB hitters out!

We’ll have to see how the rest of the season plays out. If any of the above happens..then trading Fried, Tousiant, Wentz, Wilson and Anderson would look HELLA FOOLISH (in addition to trading Teheran. McCarthy is a Free Agent at the end of 2018…not too concerned about losing him via a trade at The July Trade Deadline).

ONLY after The Braves have settled on who their long term Starting 5 is going to be…would it make ANY SENSE to start trading ANY of our high upside starting pitching prospects! To be honest, The Braves may not settle on their long term Rotation..until 2020 (there are some guys in A and AA who could be better than a couple of the young guys that are currently in The Braves Rotation who are slated to open The 2019 Season in The Braves Rotation).

How about we enjoy watching these young guys DEVELOP/LEARN/PROSPECT this season? “Making moves”…just to ‘feel better about things’…is simply STUPID and SHORT SIGHTED! No trading Synderguard and d’Naurd’s for RA DICKEY type trades!

Why not just be patient..and wait for AA to use The 2018 Free Agent Offseason to improve the team (when it will ONLY cost money and a couple of 3rd round and lower draft picks….and that is assuming that The Braves sign a player that was not traded during The 2018 Season. Let’s say that Machado or someone else The Braves target was traded in 2018: No draft pick would be attached to the player..since players traded during the season of the Free Agent Year CANNOT be offered salary arbitration, which would attach a draft pick to them if another team signed the player)? That way, The Braves can BOTH improve the team by signing a couple of GREAT players AND keep their prized prospects?

Interesting article, Tommy. I didn’t know that Thorpe was basically Brian Jordan or Deion Sanders before they were two way stars, or before there was a Great Depression!

I grew up in Richmond watching the R-Braves. It was stunning to see Jim Thorpe once played for the Braves. I knew he was the ultimate athlete, but I never realized he had played for them in Boston.

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